Thursday, 28 September 2017

Girls CAN do Anything!

I'm delighted to be publishing a book with Scholastic next year called Girls Can do Anything

It's being illustrated by the wonderful Ali Pye, and will be aimed at very young children.  As part of the process, my editor asked me to send her a paragraph on why I wanted to write the book.  What came out was a *little* more than a single paragraph - but for once I wasn't particularly worried about word count!  Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you too. So here it is:

I have always been a girl but have never felt completely comfortable as one.  When I was growing up, my parents were endlessly encouraging and taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be, I just had to be determined and work hard. However, society did not agree and I felt constantly affronted and frustrated by everyday sexism.  I was not allowed to wear trousers to school, even when it was snowing, because “girls don’t wear trousers,”  I was not allowed to join the Cub Scouts, because girls had to be Brownies and learn about sewing and painting. Only boys were allowed to play with fire and poke things with sticks.  I was not allowed to play football, or do woodwork. I could not grow up to be an astronaut, or a carpenter or a racing driver.  

As I child, I had no positive female role models. All the best characters in books, films and on television were male. Girls like me,  who loved climbing trees and building dens, were called tom-boys.  We were not proper girls, or proper boys, but something in between.

As an adult, I assumed that this kind of insidious disapproval was a thing of the past.  That society was much more fair - that women were now seen as equals.  Until one day in 2014, when I saw an online campaign #Like a Girl, which really unsettled me.  It highlighted how the term “like a girl,”  is still used as an insult.  And that really got me thinking.  Why should it be an insult to throw like a girl, or run like a girl?  Why was this term still very much in use in what I had thought were more enlightened times?  

A year or so later, my thoughts were again jarred by a Sport England advert on television #ThisGirlCan.  This ad really blew all my childhood conditioning out of the water.  For the first time ever, I was seeing images of girls getting sweaty, and dirty and being aggressive - and this being a cause for celebration rather than ridicule.  It was the first time I’d seen anything that so blatantly challenged the stereotypes I’d grown up with.  And I was shocked at how much impact it had. Until then, I’d assumed that sexual stereotyping was a thing of the past.  But seeing these powerful images lighting up my living room made me realise that society still thinks it’s unusual for a girl to play football, or fly a plane, or mend the road.  We see very little women’s sport on television, even now.  If I asked you who was the first British astronaut, you would likely say Tim Peake.  But you’d be wrong.  It was, in fact, a woman, called Helen Sharman, almost 25 years before.  My sister-in-law, who is a Captain for Easyjet - is still regularly patronised with a “well done” by male passengers boarding her plane.  It is totally shocking and unacceptable to me that women’s achievements are still belittled, ridiculed and ignored.  

I realised that, as a children’s author, I had an opportunity to show our youngest children that the world belongs as much to girls as it does to boys.  I wanted to demonstrate that girls are allowed and entitled to create a space for themselves wherever they choose - whatever their interests or passions may be, and for that to be okay.  They don’t need to be called half-boys or less-than-girls, they can just be themselves and aspire to become anything they want to be.  I wanted to show young children categorical proof that a girl can become an astronaut or a bus driver, a builder or a firefighter. I wanted to give girls confidence that their hopes and dreams, their interests and passions are not only acceptable, but are to be celebrated and applauded.  And that’s why I wrote Girls Can Do Anything. Because I believe it is true.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Do you love dinosaurs? Course you do!

Who doesn't love dinosaurs? And I bet your children know a whole lot more about them than you do! Well I've just uploaded some fantabulous dino-tastic fun activities to accompany my book Knock Knock Dinosaur.  

They've been developed in partnership with the amazingly clever-tastic Zoe Toft from Playing by the Book and you can check them out here for absolutely FREE!

Get your hands on a copy of Knock Knock Dinosaur from your local book shop or library, or buy a signed copy from me here and then get busy with these great activities. They're educational too, but shh don't tell the kids!

Knock Knock Dinosaur is illustrated by Nick East. Isn't he amazing?! Watch out for more Knock Knock books coming soon.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

FREE Activities to enhance your stories

Enjoying a book isn't just about reading a story.  Reading books together with your children can give them - and you - so much more.  I do a lot of work in schools and libraries with children, teachers and parents and design lots of activities to accompany my books that help kids get the most out of their reading experiences.  These might include writing stories using my characters, making up songs about them, or creating their own games based on the book's theme.

Many of these activities are available for you at home, free of charge.  Just visit my website and go to Activities and Downloads for a huge range of free downloadable creative fun and games that will enhance your reading experience with your child or children.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fractured Fairy Tales

Traditional fairy tales are the bread and butter of many young readers' diet. Passed down from parents to children over many generations, they are the stories that stick with us as we grow and are so embedded in the western European culture that many of us can quote at least one refrain from a favourite tale and would probably struggle to imagine a childhood without them.

As our society becomes more multicultural I wonder whether stories from other cultures are becoming more widely known in schools?  Certainly when I've approached publishers about exploring traditional tales from other cultures, I've generally been met with the "there's not a big enough market," sort of comment, which I find rather disappointing and hard to believe.

Anyway, as far as European tales go, many authors enjoy playing about with these stories and re-writing them with a modern twist or turning things upside down and back to front.  The children I work with in schools LOVE messing about in the fairy tale world and creating crazy, ridiculous stories of their own.  It's great fun and anything is possible when you inhabit a world of fire-breathing dragons and hungry talking bears.

I've written a few myself - all published by Nosy Crow, each of which challenges some aspect of the traditional fairy tale world.  In my books I like to subvert traditionally gender-specific roles and challenge the central premise of many fairy tales that princesses are pathetic and need rescuing and that anything different is bad and must be thwarted as quickly as possible. My princesses do not dream of marriage and the happy ever after.  They are brave and feisty and independent - as any self-respecting girl should be!

Joanne Norland, of Mumswrite, has written a very interesting blog about the emergence of fractured fairy tales in children's literature.  She interviews me, Jonathan Emmett and Leigh Hodgkinson in a very thought-provoking article. Have a read of it here.

For anyone who is interested in such things, it's also very enlightening to read the original versions of these stories, recorded by the Grimm Brothers and others.  Many are very different to the stories we know today and FAR more gruesome!

So if you have some spare time, pick up a fairy tale and have a go and re-writing it yourself!

Here's a fun activity to get you going:

Visit the Activities and Downloads section of my website and print out a copy of the Traditional Tales Grid.

Cut out the images and place them face-down on the table. Pick one square at random.  This is the start of your story.  Then pick 4 more squares and see if you can create a fairy tale-ish kind of story as you go along.  It's a great game to play with kids.

I will be playing a live version of this game at the Wychwood Festival in Cheltenham on Friday 2 June so do come along and have some fun!

Monday, 8 May 2017

NEW! Knock Knock Dinosaur Activites

I am delighted to bring you the second of five brand new FREE Knock Knock Dinosaur activities to delight your little ones and keep those little fingers and minds busy!

Developed in partnership with the uber-creative Zoe Toft this first activity is a fabulous cut and colour dinosaur counting puzzle!

Download it now from my Activities and Downloads page. And watch out for more fab fun coming soon!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

NEW! Let's Go to Nursery Activities

Bee and Billy
Billy and Bee
See what they can do

They're so tumbly
Wiggly, jumbly
Can you do it too?

We have created some gorgeous new FREE activities to accompany this, the first in a series of four first-experiences books.  Head over to the Activities and Downloads section to get yours!

Thanks to Lauren Tobia and Zoe Toft for their help!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Whiffy Fun at Hillsborough Library

Staff and Hillsborough Library in Sheffield have created their very own Whiffy Wilson activity. Here are some photos of little ones having lots of fun getting Whiffy Wilson dressed!

You can download the activity from my website here:  

Have you created any activities linked to my books? Do get in touch via my website to let me know.. or post some pictures on twitter and tag me @carylhart1  

Many thanks to Zeyd Kateregga for sending them through.

Find out more about Sheffield libraries events here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Albie Outfits for World Book Day

I have really truly arrived as a name in children's publishing.  How do I know? Because children have been dressing up as their favourite characters from some of my books for World Book Day! Hip Hip Hooray!  

Sending a really huge thank you to everyone who tweeted pictures of their little ones, to all the parents who made the effort to take part. 

Caught Reading for World Book Day

Parents running the children's book club at Windmill Hill School, Sheffield asked me to take part in their Caught Reading campaign.  So I said YES!  They made a lovely poster with answers to all their questions to display at school.  Here it is, if your interested!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Being an author is not just about writing books. At least, it isn't for me. It's about loving the people I am writing for. It's about making them feel special, and doing my very best to give them something they will enjoy and remember.  It is about inspiring imaginative play and helping children develop a love of books and reading.  It is also about helping parents create special moments with their children and giving them a helping hand with the difficult job of parenting.

I get lots of tweets from parents telling me that one of my books is their son or daughter's favourite and that they have read it every bedtime for the last three weeks.  It fills me with great pride to know that something I have helped create means so much to somebody. When I think back to my own favourite bedtime stories as a child, it is with very fond memories of special time with a parent.  These moments are so precious and I feel immensely proud to be a part of this special time for families across the UK.

I sometimes get a batch of letters too, from school children who have read some of my books.  Like the ones pictured that came a couple of days ago from a group of young children at St George's Infant School and Nursery in Colchester.  

Their teacher, Deborah Laughlin, emailed in advance, asking permission to send the letters.  She said, "I work as a Nurture Leader at a primary school in Colchester Essex. The children in my group love your stories, (we read a different one almost daily). They are so enthusiastic and ask lots of questions, some of which I can't answer, therefore I was wondering if it would be possible for the children to write to you?"

The letters arrived last week, along with an email from Mrs Laughlin telling me that the children had walked to the post box and posted the letters themselves.  They were all very proud of their achievement! I have now written back with a little something to keep in their classroom.  

It is wonderful to see teachers going the extra mile like this for their children. And it is wonderful for me to feel that my work has inspired these children enough that they want to sit down and do some writing. Never underestimate how much effort it takes young children to write something.  They have a huge amount to think about: letter formation, spelling; getting their meaning across; sentence structure etc.  It really is very hard work - even holding the pencil for a long time can be tiring.  So motivating children can be a challenge at times.

But getting a reply to a letter they have written is hugely satisfying to a child - heck, it's hugely satisfying to ANYONE if you feel that the person you are writing to is important! It makes us feel special.  It makes us feel like we matter. It makes us feel empowered that we can communicate our thoughts and that someone else will understand us and take us seriously.  And as writers, mentors, educators and heroes to these children, we should recognise the importance of writing back.

They asked some brilliant questions too:

Why isn't there a rainbow in How to Catch a Dragon?
Why are there no princesses?
How old is Albie?

In doing so, they have given me food for thought - I will definitely ask Ed Eaves to add a rainbow or two to our next book.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Knock Knock Dinosaur!

Knock Knock? 
Who's at the door?
YIKES! One real live dinosaur!!

It's fun to find a T-Rex on your doorstep, but when all 54 of his friends arrive, it's time to panic!

This playful dinosaur counting book is jam-packed with chaos and silliness and is great fun to read out loud.

This is the first book I've published with super-fantastic illustrator Nick East and it's a blinder! Nick has set the bar very high for this, the first in a new Knock Knock series published by Hodder Children's Books.  

There are dinosaurs EVERYWHERE!  

Get your hands on a specially signed copy from my online bookshop or pick one up from your local bookstore or online.  

Watch out for more Knock Knock titles out later this year!  YIKES!!